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The End of Patience: Cautionary Notes on the Information Revolution Hardcover – August 22, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; First Edition edition (August 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253336341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253336347
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,212,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

"Information overload" is a simple phrase for a complex phenomenon: the overwhelming sense that modern media technologies churn out more words and images than our culture can usefully absorb. David Shenk, a technology critic with a knack for unraveling the complex, has an even simpler name for it--"data smog." That was the title of his first book, a smart, useful critique of the march of info-tech "progress" that has brought us such marvels as spam, junk mail, and 57 channels with nothing much on.

His second book, The End of Patience: Cautionary Notes on the Information Revolution, continues and expands Shenk's analysis, collecting articles and commentary he wrote for National Public Radio, The New Republic, FEED, Wired, and other high-minded venues over the last three years. Shenk's targets here vary widely: the corporatization of scientific research, the dizzying ethical choices surrounding biotechnology, and the scourge of Web sites with too many bells and whistles all get due consideration. But his central message remains the same throughout. Our technologies, he warns, are shaping us into a nation of info-hungry, data-dizzy "button smackers," risking the quality of our life and culture for the doubtful thrill of instant knowledge.

Shenk's warning is a gentle one, however, tempered by an affectionate familiarity with the media he critiques. And though this book could have used a little more winnowing (in particular, the transcribed conversations with assorted media-critic pals of Shenk's come off as little more than chummy, self-indulgent filler), in general his writing has a sure, light touch that glides past the bombast of classic technopunditry. Happily, Shenk follows his own prescriptions, cutting through the information haze rather than adding to it. --Julian Dibbell

From Publishers Weekly

Shenk, author of the celebrated Data Smog, articulates further uneasiness with the information age in this collection of provocative punditry originally written for National Public Radio and publications ranging the information superhighway from Wired to Feed. There is, to be sure, much in the new hyper-faster-go-go-go dial-up culture to wear down one's patience. Shenk is fed up with Microsoft, the recent consolidation of corporation and academy, carbon-copy Howard Sterns and the paparazzi in all of us. But, even as he asserts the benefits of patience and the ability to pay sustained attention, Shenk is no Luddite ready to shack up in the mountains with his Smith-Corona far from his modem. He actually likes the digital ageAso long as it is kept in perspective: "As the Web becomes integrated into the fabric of our livesAmostly to our great benefitAwe should employ hyperlinking as a useful tool, but be careful not to let it govern the way we think." Though, as a collection of previously published pieces, the book lacks the coherence of Data Smog, Shenk's sentences are witty, often savagely funny. These essays, many of which are shorter than three pages, are entertaining, even if, in their brevity, they do not demand the patience that Shenk argues is such a virtue. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

David Shenk is the national bestselling author of five previous books, including THE FORGETTING ("remarkable" - Los Angeles Times), DATA SMOG ("indispensable" - New York Times), and THE IMMORTAL GAME ("superb" - Wall Street Journal). He is a correspondent for, and has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS. His new book, THE GENIUS IN ALL OF US, has been called "engrossing" by Booklist (starred review) and "empowering...myth-busting" by Kirkus.

Shenk's work inspired the Emmy-award winning PBS documentary "The Forgetting," and was featured in the Oscar-nominated feature "Away From Her." He has advised the President's Council on Bioethics, and is a popular speaker. His original term "data smog" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
David Shenk writes with wit and warmth about profound matters that affect us all, and manages to make high tech information intelligible and enjoyable.
I was introduced to Mr. Shenk's work in "Data Smog", an earlier publication about the impact of technology on us mortals. Time and time again, I experienced that 'click' of recognition, as Mr. Shenk articulated what I had been feeling, but unable to voice.
Mr. Shenk hasn't let us down with his current work, "The End of Patience". One warning, though - this book will make information technology addicts very grumpy. For those of us who have embraced this technology without question and spend most of our lives 'plugged in' on an endless quest for more and better and faster, Mr. Shenk's insights will not be welcome.
For the rest of us, those who just want to retain our humanity in cyber-world, it's a must-read.This is especially true for those who are privileged to work in developing our information technology and communication systems, and have the power to deeply impact our futures.
Mr. Shenk does not advocate disrespect for our modern miracles. On the contrary, he reminds us that it is in the nature of miracles to overwhelm those who are touched by them.
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Format: Hardcover
The End of Patience: cautionary notes on the information revolution by David Shenk
This is a very fast, fun read, and I found it simultaneously interesting and frustrating. Every chapter/article is a reprint of a previously published (either in print or online) essay - for the material that is 2-3 years old - I would have liked to also read additional current follow-up or commentary. It would be fascinating to know, in this time of exploding commercial enterprise on the web if the author still holds the same opinions about the need for a World Wide Library ("a regimented, filtered, ultra-reliable segment of the World Wide Web") as he did in mid-1997. And how he thinks it might be accomplished given the current free market boom.
Every essay provided food for thought, even if only to wonder "is this still true?" The author writes clearly, humorously and cogently. I would be pleased to see book length treatments of many of the themes he treats in just 2 or 3 pages ("Hall Pass to the Twenty-first Century: the problem with putting schools online" would be a particularly juicy book topic). In light of the coming anti-trust judgment remedies in the Microsoft case - a book extrapolating on the essay "Hating Gates: the culture of Microsoft bashing" could be quite provocative. His conclusion that "as long as Microsoft keeps its focus on itself, maintains that hungry feeling, and stays (more or less) within the bounds of the law, they're bound to succeed ... [but] technology has a way of turning the tables rather suddenly. Regardless of Microsoft's foresight, toughness, breadth of investment, and research, Gates knows as well as anyone that his days as technology king could come to a fairly swift end" (p.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Montjovent Pascal on October 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Faster is not always better. Our linear minds do not "click" too well in this evergrowing hypertextual world. You have the right to feel overwhelmed by this new speed dogma. This book tells us it's a normal feeling we shouldn't be afraid of admitting. It's clever but never forgets to be down to earth and witty. It's clearly a great gift for anybody living in our fantastic and hysterical world of bits and speed.
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Format: Hardcover
David Shenk has a gift for giving voice to my nagging anxieties, and an ability to discover the essential features of complex problems. I think he is a truly fine essayist, and all of the ones in this slender volume are wonderful. "Stealing Calm," however, is in a very rare class. It even approaches the likes of Loren Eiseley's "The Bird and the Machine," and for me, there are no higher accolades.
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